Science fiction author Philip K. Dick, whose work inspired the films Blade Runner and Total Recall, is getting the Oppenheimer-Monroe treatment, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The biopic, titled Only Apparently Real, is in its early stages and is being produced by Air Force One‘s Jon Shestack and written by “lawyer-turned-scribe” Michael Richter. The film will focus on the author’s bizarre life, and in particular, a break-in that may or may not have happened where all of Dick‘s manuscripts were — or were not — stolen.
Philip K. Dick penned 44 novels and over 100 short stories in his short lifetime before dying at the age of 53 in 1982. His work, heavy in paranoia and reality vs. perception, spanned most of his life, but Dick didn’t receive much notoriety until his novel The Man in the High Castle earned him a Hugo Award for Best Novel. He followed it up with Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and more with themes that explored theology and the nature of reality. A lot of Dick‘s work inspired some popular Hollywood films such as the surveillance thriller Minority Report starring Tom Cruise, and the animated psychological thriller A Scanner Darkly with Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr., and Winona Ryder.
Perhaps just as peculiar as his fiction, Dick‘s harried life is what inspired Shestack to really dig into the idea of a biopic. It was after years of drug abuse that the author’s science fiction slipped from What If…?-style alternative history to the later themes of metaphysics and theology, after Dick experienced paranoid hallucinations, paranormal experiences, and the belief that ‘he was living parallel lives in two different time periods, one in the present and the other in the Roman Empire.”
In the early ’70s, there was an attempted break-in on Dick‘s house, which Only Apparently Real zeroes in on. At this point in his life, the sci-fi maven was managing his fourth divorce, still battling his addiction to amphetamines and struggling with writer’s block. At the time that Dick‘s house was purportedly broken into, he was certain that the US government was spying on him, and when his home was “ransacked” Dick‘s safe was emptied of all his manuscripts. Or was it? Did someone break into his home? Dick was beginning to lose his grip on what was real and what wasn’t. Between this, and the tragic death in infancy of his twin sister Jane, which Dick felt plagued his existence, Only Apparently Real seeks to investigate the author’s psychological issues and personal life. How a biopic of the man hasn’t been yet made is beyond us.
Of Dick, Shestack said:
“His life was as surreal as his books. He was a high-level functioning person and you never know, even when reading his journals, what is real and what isn’t.”
Richter, who both wrote and is producing Only Apparently Real, is best known for his work writing and producing the 2013 indie film Torn which starred Faran Tahir and maintains a 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. Shestack produced the “Harrison Ford thriller” Air Force One as well as the oddly depressing comedy-drama Dan in Real Life with Steve Carrell. Shestack and Richter are currently searching for a director with plans to begin filming Only Apparently Real in the fall, hoping to shoot in San Rafael, California where Dick lived at the time of the break-in. No cast members have been announced and there is no release date at this time.